What are we supposed to think when we see our Prime Minister taking part in Olympic ceremonies alongside regimes that hold an appalling record of human rights violations, yet when our leaders attacked Iraq, part of their post-justifications for doing so was that Saddam grossly abused human rights?
While many people pour condemnation on the behaviour of some of the protesters at the Olympic torch so-called Journey of Harmony through London, it’s important to remember what the human rights campaigners are angry about. The torch is on its way to Beijing where as we speak, human rights are being ignored. Just this weekend, Chinese police opened fire on protesters, killing at least eight people. I’m sure there are some leaders who would benefit from a sabotaged Beijing games and a ruined Chinese global image and I hate to see it made easier for them but human rights are human rights and as Amnesty International says . . . “Unless the Chinese authorities take urgent measures to stop human rights violations over the coming year, they risk tarnishing the image of China and the legacy of the Beijing Olympics.”
Furtermore, it’s all very well saying that the Olympic games should not be politicised . . . that politics should stay out of sports and vice versa but the games always attract controversy and what better venue is there to promote a cause or make a statement? I don’t think it’s possible for the Olympic games to be fully disassociated from politics and it’s certainly not possible to disassociate China’s abyssmal human rights record from their hosting of the games. I feel for the people who have looked forward to receiving the torch and the sportsmen and women who have trained for the games but they can’t hide from the realities which are that China is failing to uphold the Olympic values and until the Chinese rulers confront their own demons and adapt accordingly, I believe our Prime Minister should make some kind of stand. I’m not calling for a full boycott of the games based on this premise* but surely the brave and right thing to do would be for Brown to insist that China keeps all it’s pre-Olympic pledges before he commits himself to supporting the Beijing games.
Human Rights abuses cannot co-exist with the Beijing Olympics
Athens: August 2007
* although I wouldn’t support a full boycott in this matter, the environmental impact of the Olympic games is a different matter entirely and I would question the logic of holding such major events while the world is still trying to work out how to mitigate climate change.